Telling the Library’s Story: A TTW Fave

David Lee King emailed and asked me for some quotes/thoughts on telling stories in the library for his forthcoming book — a chapter on Community-Focused Digital Experience. In looking back I didn’t realize that the “telling stories” theme had been running through my work. Here’s a few of my favorites.

Tell Stories

From Ten Ways to Create buy-in from my 2006 Library Tech report:

#3 Tell Stories

I’ve talked about this a lot: one way for libraries to promote their value and relevance is to tell the library’s story every chance you get. Beyond daunting columns of statistics, users — and staff — might benefit from a story about “how the library helped its users today?” Ponder a staff exchange where internal stories can be told via a wiki or Weblog. You may find a lot of answers to the question: “Why are we doing this?”

From my OCLC article “Into a New World of Librarianship”

Librarian 2.0 gets content

This librarian understands that the future of libraries will be guided by how users access, consume and create content. Content is a conversation as well and librarians should participate. Users will create their own mash ups, remixes and original expressions and should be able to do so at the library or via the library’s resources. This librarian will help users become their own programming director for all of the content available to them.

Librarian 2.0 also listens to staff and users when planning, tells the stories of successes and failures, learns from both, celebrates those successes, allows staff time to play and learn, and never stops dreaming about the best library services.

From Notes from the Ohio Library Council Meeting (Fall 2006)

Look for the Stories in Everything we Do

Use stories to market the library and its services.
Use stories to create staff buy in for projects and change.
Use stories to illustrate the big picture, mission and vision of your library

From Then Things I Know About Libraries October 2006

#9 Libraries need to share their stories

One of the things we wrestle with in libraryland, beyond marketing ourselves yet closely related, is demonstrating value to our community. I don’t know anything about the Lawrence library. Today, in light or Hirschey’s piece, there may be some kerfuffle, maybe even some scrambling to find a way to repsond. I see they do have a survey on their Web page to gather users opinions.

I’d hope they’d respond, via a blog for example, and address Hirschey’s points and point out how the library does add value to the community. How professionals trained to assist folks with their information and entertainment needs are a valuable asset to the community. There are library success stories to tell in Lawrence, I’m sure, as well in libraries and those libraries’ communities everywhere. Tales of the knitting group. A snippet of dialog between a mother and her kids enjoying storytime together. And more…

Look around your library. Listen. What stories do you hear? What stories are you telling?

From the infamous cell phone sign post! July 2006

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately. I’ve even used the phrase “What story is your library telling?” as an IM away message. So imagine the synchronicity, when into the TTW comment bin comes a nice pointer to a post by Phyllis at “Something New Everyday” — she’s adapted Brenda Hough’s eight training tips for her library: “Eight Tips for Learning in a Changing World,” including this “Look for the story that exists in every situation.”

It reminded me of the images we’ve seen snapped in some libraries of some not very friendly signage mostly about cell phones. Remember, putting up a sign in your library is sending a message to your users — and it’s a story we are telling too.

Take a look at the images below, some from my travels and others from some friends who agreed to let me blog them (they’re clickable!) and think about the story these libraries are telling users. Take a walk around your library and look for the messages and stories you’re sending to users via signage, etc. And think about the reasons the signs went up in the first place: policy? one bad egg that caused a knee-jerk reaction? fear?

How might we change these stories?

From Ten Things I’ve Learned as a Blogging Librarian April 2005

Libraries should be Blogging

At my talk on “Optimizing Technology in Libraries” — absolutely hands down one of my favorites to present – I made a point that one way to create staff buy-in is to blog about a project. From 6 rows back, an audience member said (rather sternly) : “BLOGGING takes time! Who has time to do that?” I must admit I lost a little steam with that and realized our work is nowhere near done as “blogvangelists.” (Thanks Will)

Blogs serve a purpose in libraries. The software — simply a Content Management System (CMS) of sorts — takes care of the dirty work and let’s us focus on CONTENT. What could be more wonderful than that. Sometimes I think the name has a bad wrap. Maybe at CIL I could have said “Let your staff and public know by implementing a CMS and posting to it regularly.”

Jenny turned me on to a great term: transparency. That’s letting the public know what the library is doing, how we do it and what it means for our users. This is hot stuff. Here’s where blogging libraries can really fly: telling stories to their users about their services, programs and everything else we do. AND IT’S EASY!

Look at what libraries are doing with blogs! It’s incredible. As LIS Bloggers, we can sell that message and improve services internally and externally.


Librarians Can Tell Good Stories

I’m all about Joan Durrance’s How Libraries and Librarians Help. It addresses how we need to tell our libraries’ and our users’ stories to better market libraries and keep us relevant. Durrance talks about statistics versus stories and how stories bring that human element to the library.

I think librarians like to tell stories, not only in storytime, but in blogging. We blog stories about technology, the reference desk and support services.

It all comes down to the inspirations from Durrance/Fisher and of course Jenny Levine.

So, I’ll ask it again, because it’s an oh so good question: What story is your library telling? 🙂